Probate is the process by which the court facilitates the distribution of a deceased person’s assets. Unfortunately, probate is a lengthy and expensive process in the state of Florida. In fact, it often takes six months or more to complete the probate process. Luckily, as we explain below, there are multiple ways to avoid probate in Florida.
Joint Ownership with Rights of Survivorship
In Florida, people may own real estate or personal property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. With this type of ownership, the people listed on the title share ownership while they are living. After one joint tenant dies, however, the legal title passes to the surviving owners automatically—without going through the probate process.
A beneficiary account is a financial account that allows the owner to name one or more beneficiaries to take over ownership of the account upon the owner’s death. In other words, the initial owner of the account designates one or more people to inherit the account after he or she dies. Upon the death of a sole account owner, ownership of assets in the account pass along to named beneficiaries. Accounts that transfer in this way are not part of the deceased owner’s probate estate.
Lady Bird Deeds
A lady bird deed is a deed that transfers real estate to future beneficiaries while reserving the property owner’s right to live in and control the property for the balance of his or her lifetime. Upon the death of the owner, the beneficiary automatically acquires full title to the property without the need for probate.
The most common way to avoid probate is through a living trust. A living trust is an estate planning document that is established during a person’s lifetime via a trust agreement. A living trust agreement usually provides that the person who establishes the trust, called the settlor, may amend or revoke it during his or her lifetime. The settlor remains the sole beneficiary and recipient of all trust income for as long as he or she is alive. After a settlor dies, however, trust assets automatically pass to named beneficiaries without probate, making a living trust an excellent estate planning option.
Contact a Florida and New York Estate Planning Attorney
If you would like to avoid the expense and time associated with the probate process in Florida, you need an experienced Florida and New York estate planning attorney on your side. At the Law Office of Angela Siegel, attorney Angela Siegel uses her extensive estate planning experience to provide comprehensive estate planning services to residents in both Florida and New York. When you come to us for assistance with estate planning, Ms. Siegel will take steps to ensure that you and your family are fully protected. Please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.